Three Top Tips to Simplify Processes
By Richard Holmes
1. Describe the happy flow.
Too often we see process maps tying themselves in knots as they seek to explain every possible process variation. You can make things far easier for the reader if you use the flow chart to describe what normally happens and then separately describe how to handle those process exceptions in the process detail.
Let's say for example we're describing the process for advertising a new position. A variation that can occur is the need to revise the advertising copy because the first attempt doesn't make the grade. Rather than adding in a decision box asking 'Is the advertising copy sufficient?' followed by separate yes/no process flows, it's far easier for the reader to keep the process flow simple and just include a Note under the Activity step. The Activity step could say 'Confirm advertising copy is correct' and the Note underneath would say 'What if the advertising copy is insufficient?' and then describe to the reader what to do should this situation arise.
2. Group common tasks under a single activity.
If you present process maps with too many boxes, natural human behaviour is to think - oh, that's a lot to take in. Many people will simply avoid using it or ask someone else what to do. So instead of including lots of minor tasks on the process map, group them under a single common activity. For example if we had an Activity Box in our process map that said 'Prepare for the expedition', we could include all the relevant tasks under it like: - Determine weather conditions - Check fishing rods are in working order - Purchase bait and petrol - Make lunch and thermos of tea
3. This brings us to the third tip - use verbs.
Verbs make things easier to comprehend. Academic studies have shown instructions are far easier to follow if you start your sentences (or in our case Activities and Tasks) with verbs. Note how easy the task list above is to read?
Leonardo De Vinci said 'simplicity is the ultimate sophistication'. We couldn't agree more. If you genuinely want to get everyone on the same page and doing things right first time, then provide easy to read process guidance.